Gold Lamé Never Looked So Good

It seems all that glitters may be gold after all when it comes to this set of dance minds. The Gold Series No. 1, a collective of some of LA’s most elite dance intellectuals, was presented at ARC Pasadena early this November for two nights of luminous costumes and sparkling artistry. The event was simply and beautifully lighted by Derek Jones, who created an evening of striking visuals and provocative inquiry into the messaging bodies on stage. The depth of  performative inquiry seen in Gold Series No. 1 may have one spontaneously singing the iconic C + C Music Factory refrain, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”—an altogether appropriate reference not just for the perplexing verging on befuddling messages of the evening but also for the fact that such a song could have easily made the funky playlist for the evening. Gold Series No. 1 featured works that were human, absurd, absurdly human, and humanly absurd.

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rose fever, photograph by by Taso Papadakis

The evening began with rose fever choreographed by Daniel Miramontes in collaboration with the performers. Sweeping into the performance space in fashionista faces and gold lamé ponchos, the four female performers were runway fierce and extra groovy as they walked, pivot turned, and ball-changed their way between complex layers of independent groove and serious Donna Summer disco fever. Miramontes has a knack for creating compositionally edgy dances with a wit of jazz to harness the audience’s attention.

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Showman, photograph by by Taso Papadakis

Showman, choreographed and performed by Lailye Weidman, a former LA resident now hailing from Detroit, drastically changed the tone of the evening. In her collage-style dance, Weidman demonstrated her remarkable capacity to transform herself into an array of characters at a moment’s notice. Through her diverse range of embodied states of being, Weidman created a world of visceral, dynamic embodiment. She summoned imagery ranging from a mosh-pit-dancing, headbanging, guitar-strumming adolescent young man to a stand-up comedian speaking into an extension cord for a microphone. Then there was a sort of dry-heaving victim…and was that a fleeting Catholic pope reference I saw in her stately parade of ritual with the extension cord turned cape? These were just some of what is worthy of unpacking from this gender-bending, deconstructivist, queer-protest performance by Weidman.

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You Buck, I Plod, photograph by by Taso Papadakis

After intermission, we returned to a giggle-inducing duet choreographed and performed by Sarah Leddy and Alexx Shilling, entitled You Buck, I Plod. And, immediately, my problem-solving brain was in action. So, which of these two is the bucker, and which is the plodder? Even upon further reflection, I’m still unsure of the answer. This piece takes dance to its edge as the audience witnesses the extreme awkwardness of the dancers with their unfettered determination and commitment to the creative and performative process, Dada-ist in its surreal mundanity. It had the audience laughing at loud at these two contrasting movers. Shilling is voluptuous, fluid, cascading in her movement. She rises and falls with athletic freedom and a deep sense of physical connectivity. Leddy, on the other hand, is all length. Using her height to her advantage, her movement is spindly, precise, nuanced, and cerebral.  Put them together and you have a duet that can only end with the two of them squatted in a deep second position, leaning on each other and yelling their guts out.

Carol McDowell was

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Be Cool, photograph by by Taso Papadakis

the second soloist of the evening, dancing a 60th birthday celebration dance created with her and for her by Alexx Shilling. The piece, entitled Be Cool, featured a vibrant and notably hip McDowell in a deep gold lamé jumpsuit (and, yes, it seems gold lamé comes in a number of shades and varieties). With music by David Bowie and Josh Shilling, McDowell displayed her physical vigor in repeated shaking of her head and twisting of her torso that could earn many, much younger, a stint in a neck brace. This sort of violent freedom was contrasted with extended periods of finding precarious balance atop a gilded stepstool. McDowell was undoubtedly cool in this piece. She looked fantastic in her low-cut suit of gold and partially shaved hair-do. Her resolve as a performer would make anyone of any age want to be her. As for the message and design of the piece, it was another example of a process-driven exploration of imagery, body, and personal myth. The result was a journey as open-ended to interpretation as a Murakami novel.

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honor roll, photograph by by Taso Papadakis

The evening closed with a showstopper of a number…well, as show-stopping as one gets in this vein of abstract, inquiry-based performance practice. But, honor roll choreographed and performed by Madison Clark with Daniel Miramontes, was anxiety producing, hysterical, painfully awkward, and triumphant, with music by Juan Gabriel and Rick Astley (that’s right…Rick Astley). Clark and Miramontes are another unlikely pair who resonate due to their differences on almost all accounts. I came to realize just how all of the pieces of this evening were not just dance works performed by dancers. They were art pieces dependent on the unique package of each performer as a body, a story, a shape, a color, an age, and a human.  honor roll evoked images of socially painful high school dances, quiceñeras, homecoming kings and queens, and the best worst competition jazz pas be bourrées you could ever imagine.

Overall, Gold Series No.1 was a movement study in being human. It balanced levity with gravity, reality with absurdity. The performers as a whole were not the textbook dancer types from over-produced television shows, and they were better for it. Because these works investigated the entirety of the human condition, their imperfections allowed us as audience members to see ourselves in those moments, grooving on a disco floor, vomiting into an imaginary toilet bowl, trying our very best to be ourselves, balancing ourselves in the precariousness of life, and celebrating our coming of age uniqueness. These works are not for audience members who need narrative, a traditional emotional arc, and uniform bodies to identify a dance as good but for those who are looking for a taste of how far one can go down the rabbit hole of movement and humanity. The gold is there to be found in this group of artists…if you are willing to keep digging deeper and deeper still.

Additional design and director contributions by Liz Carpenter (Costume, honor roll), Pablo Santiago (Lighting, Be Cool), and Meredith Bove (Dramaturgy, Showman).

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